Dolphin Sky by Ginny Rorby

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This week I am celebrating with my friend and author Ginny Rorby as she receives her award from the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) for winning the Sunshine State Young Readers Award (as voted by 6-8 grade students in Florida) for Lost in the River of Grass. To celebrate, I will be reviewing all of her books this week:

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Dolphin Sky
Author: Ginny Rorby
Published July 29th, 2013 (first published 1996)

Goodreads Summary: When the captive dolphins that she has befriended are threatened, Buddy risks her father’s condemnation and the law to save their lives in this powerful story about a dyslexic child, trapped by the limitations of her learning disability, who discovers that real freedom comes from being true to your heart.

My Review: I know you have heard this from me all week, but Ginny Rorby just has a way of sucking me in and pulling on my heart strings. Dolphin Sky is Ginny’s first book which she has rereleased as an ebook, so I grabbed it as soon as she let me know. Once again, I cried, I cheered, I laughed. I loved every second of the book.

Ginny knows how to intertwine human issues and animal issues into a seemlessly touching story. Buddy, our young protagonist, is bullied at school and has a very tough time keeping up. A specific bully is relentless making her feel stupid specifically when she has to read outloud and cannot. The only time Buddy feels like she can be herself is around her grandfather, The Admiral, who, after an accident, is in a wheelchair. Even her father is very distant and her mother is dead. Buddy also finds relief when she is around nature and she specifically loves dolphins, so when she befriends Annie, a captive dolphin at a small roadside attraction, she knows she has found a friend for life.

One of the things that Ginny does so well is voice- unique per book, but also consistent between. Though this book is in 3rd person, the narrator has a specific voice throughout and they are different between every book (though I can always tell it is Ginny writing). She has a style to her descriptions and prose that is perfect for the books she writes. In this book, specifically the setting comes alive because of Ginny’s writing.

The other thing I think Ginny does well in all of her books is characterization of not only the human characters, but the animals as well. Annie the dolphin is as much a character as anyone else in this book. So is Osceola, the crab, who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Lastly, again, Ginny pays homage to good teachers who can make a difference. Miss Conroy, the doctorate student who meets and mentors Buddy, as well as Miss Daniels, Buddy’s teacher, are great advocates for Buddy and really show how a good teacher or mentor can make a difference.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Especially for those of us in Florida, there are many different sections of this book that would be great for read alouds to discuss some tough topics; however, it will find its home in students’ hands.

Discussion Questions: (Writing) Just as Buddy’s teacher assigns, research an animal native to your area and determine how humans are affecting its population and what we can do to help.

We Flagged: “She puts out her hand and Annie comes slowly toward her, but sinks away before Buddy touches her. The dolphin circles, and Buddy feels her pass, feels the pressure that the movement of her tail makes in the water. She turns, trying to keep track of where Annie is… Buddy lets herself bob to the surface, takes a breath, then dangles face down, making a slow circle, trying to find the dolphin. From directly beneath her, Annie looms up out of the murky water. That monstrous form moving slowly toward her floods Buddy with the same fear she felt when she first fell into the water. Panic wells in her, flattening her lungs against her ribs until her breath leaves her in a gasp. But she doesn’t move or scream and, in that moment, realizes that her fear exploded on the surface in that bubble of air. The emptiness in her chest fills with love.” (Location 1598-1591, 1608-1612)

Read This If You Loved: Carl Hiaasen novels HootScatChomp, and FlushIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

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Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers

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Harlem: A Poem
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Published 1997 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: Walter Dean Myers calls to life the deep, rich, and hope-filled history of Harlem, this crucible of American culture.

Christopher Myers’ boldly assembled collage art resonates with feeling, and tells a tale all its own. Words and pictures together connect readers -of all ages – to the spirit of Harlem in its music, art, literature, and everyday life, and to how it has helped shape us as a people.

My Review & Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: After reading this book the first time, I knew I was going to have to tackle it differently than just reading a picture book. I wanted to make sense of it and I knew that I didn’t have the background knowledge so I knew that the power of all of the words had not sunk in yet. So, I typed up the poem in Google Drive and began doing my very own close reading of the poem.  I started with research of terms and names that I didn’t know, building my knowledge of the culture and history of Harlem. Through this build up of knowledge, I began to understand the beauty behind Myers’s poem. The voice of this poem is one of heartbreak, but strength; proud of not only what he has become, but where he came from. This poem is a celebration of the history of Harlem and its citizens—a celebration of its religion, music, poets, authors, and everything that made/makes it a hub for the civil rights movement and African America culture.

While doing my research, I found an amazing website that I will definitely use when teaching this poetry book- Harlem: A Visual Interpretative Analysis– which takes an excerpt of the poem and an accompanied collage and takes the reader through an analysis of the excerpt and artwork. Fascinating!

This book would be a great one to use across many different subject areas- history, literature, and art.

Discussion Questions: What references to Harlem’s history did Myers entertwine into his poem?; How did Christopher Myers’s illustrations take the poem to another level?; (Writing) Do research about your ancestors and your heritage. Through this research, find people, places, literature, art, musicians, etc. that helped shape who you or your family are. Use this research to construct a poem about your heritage. Find a piece of artwork to accompany your poem. 

We Flagged: 

The uptown A
Rattles past 110th street
Unreal to real
Relaxing the soul

Shango and Jesus
Asante and Mende
One people, a hundred different
People
Huddled masses
And crowded dreams

Read This If You Loved: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Complete Poems including Harlem by Langston Hughes, Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers, Nonfiction books about Harlem

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The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

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The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
Author: Neal Bascomb
Expected Publication: August 27th, 2013 by Arthur A. Levine

Summary: Adolf Eichmann was one of the world’s most notorious Nazis as the head of operations for the Nazis’ Final Solution. Essentially, he organized the transportation of the Jewish people to ghettos and concentration camps. This work of narrative nonfiction begins with the background of Eichmann’s role in the genocide. Then, in 1945, Eichmann disappeared from Germany and went into hiding. Due to the bravery of more than a dozen individuals, Eichmann is captured and put on trial for the world to view.

Review: This is an excellently researched work of nonfiction. I was amazed at the number of intricate details that went into the investigation and capture of this criminal. Neal Bascomb (who is also the author of Hunting Eichmann, the adult-marketed version of this book) was extraordinarily honest in this text. At times, I had to slap myself when I felt pity for Eichmann, as I tend to be too empathetic in my search for humanity in murderers. Bascomb doesn’t glorify the details—his account is genuine and based on numerous interviews of individuals who were connected to this hunt. I find that, in general, I become a bit disengaged when I read nonfiction, but this book kept me hooked; I wanted to read more about the courage and bravery of the Nazi Hunters. I highly recommend this text for all readers.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Nonfiction is, arguably, absent from many classrooms. English curricula tend to focus more on fiction, and I am interested to see if the Common Core will truly shift this reality (err, as much as the creators think it will, anyways). This text bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction because it is written in narrative form. For students who despise nonfiction texts, this book will have appeal because Bascomb weaves in great characterization and detail. Teachers who enjoy employing literature circles in their classrooms might consider a nonfiction focus for the circles, and this book would make for a fantastic choice for students. Alternatively, it would pair very well with other texts from the Holocaust, such as Night by Elie Wiesel. When I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but scour the internet for more details about other Nazi criminals and their captures/trials. I imagine that students will feel this same curiosity after reading this text, so I envision it would work well at the center of a research project.

Discussion Questions: Was Eichmann just following orders or is he a murderer? At what point does the excuse of “I was just following orders” become baseless and unreasonable?; Does Eichmann give up? Do you see him as a strong individual by the end of the text?; Do you think Eichmann’s wife was truly ignorant to his crimes? Do you think she should have turned him in?; How do Eichmann’s children’s views reflect on his character and views?

We Flagged: “‘For the first time in history the Jews will judge their assassins, and for the first time the world will hear the full story of the edict of annihilation against an entire people'” (Chapter 10).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Night by Elie Wiesel, Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb, Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial by Joseph E. Persco, books in the The Real Justice seres, or other works of nonfiction that concern WWII, Crime, Police Investigation, War, and Justice

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Thank you to NetGalley and Arthur A. Levine books for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

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Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
Author: Jim Ottaviani
Illustrator: Maris Wicks
Published June 11th, 2013 by First Second

Summary: Three woman in the 1960s and 1970s took part in primatology research that would change the way that we think about primates. Three woman who took a chance and researched potentially dangerous animals in their wild habitats. Three woman who took risks when many did not believe that woman should be part of the sciences. Primates tells the stories of Jane Goodall, a researcher of chimps, Dian Fossey, a gorilla expert, and Birute Galdikas, an orangutan researcher, and how their lives overlap and differ.

My Review: I may be bias, but this is one of my favorite nonfiction graphic novels ever. Bias because I am a huge ape advocate and am fascinated by them. These creatures are amazing; their intelligence is so remarkable that it is hard to even fathom. The reason why I loved this book is because it takes you through the research of three groundbreaking woman scientists and what they learned about the three completely different apes. It makes sure to show how each ape is different and spectacular as well as how each lady’s research made an impact.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think that this book is a great introduction to apes and would be a perfect read aloud before book talking other books such as Endangered (about a different ape that isn’t mentioned in Primates), Hurt Go HappyHalf Brother, and other nonfiction like Chimpanzees I LoveMe…Jane, and Gorillas in the Mist.  Check out my Nerdy Book Club Post: Top Ten Ape Books (which I would definitely add this one to) to see what other books you could connect Primates too.

Discussion Questions: How do the apes that Jane, Dian, and Birute study similar? Different?; How did Dr. Leaky play a part in all three women’s research?; Which ape is your favorite? Why?

We Flagged: Part 1: But in my dreams, I did bigger things Ever since I was a very young girl I had Africa in my blood so to speak. Sometimes my mother Vanne might have hoped I’d get over it, but even as I grew older I never did. “I do wish you’d read something… else, on occasion” “But I do! I just finished Dr. Dolittle.” “Yes, for the… How many times is that?” “Seven, Mummy.” “Well you’ll never get into a top school if that’s all you study.” “I shan’t be going to college – I want to live with wild animals when I grow up!”” (p. 3)

Also check out the School Library Journal Blog’s interview with Jim Ottaviani to see some of the artwork.

Read This If You Loved: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, Any nonfiction book about apes including Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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What is your favorite ape book?
Have you read Primates yet? What did you think?

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